A swimming pool with an electrical current nearby isn't the most suitable environment for a fish, but that's the situation Ronnie Brown finds himself in after signing a one-year contract with the San Diego Chargers on June 8th.
Part of Philip Rivers and the Chargers' struggles in 2011, in spite of the league's No. 6 passing attack, can be explained by their discrepant middle-of-the-pack running game. Ryan Mathews made enough positive steps forward to avoid an infamous sophomore slump, although he still battled injuries and inconsistencies. San Diego missed the game-changing contributions of Darren Sproles, who excelled in New Orleans. Mike Tolbert led the team with eight rushing touchdowns, but free agency sent him trucking to Carolina.
Disregarding the annual aneurysm that is the AFC West prediction, Rivers should expectedly be a Top-8 fantasy quarterback come drafts in August, but where will the backs that are waiting for his handoffs rank?
Just because Ronnie Brown has been sighted on an NFL roster, and is planted by default as Mathews' backup (ahead of Curtis Brinkley and Edwin Baker...) in an age where backfield tandems are increasingly imperative, doesn't mean that he remotely comes close to the Top 50.
The second overall pick of the 2005 Draft is far removed from his promising productive days spent in Miami. He tallied 1,915 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns during his first two seasons, and surviving the third round from then on out would have been a moderate surprise, right? Remember that? Hardly anyone does.
Brown's receiving totals (39 receptions for 389 yards) and YPC average (5.1) in 2007 were career bests, and through seven contests to start the year, he was on track to compile over 2,200 yards from scrimmage. An ensuing knee injury kept him out for the remainder of the season, and as Ricky Williams finally meditated upwards of nine substances out of his system, Brown's brief stranglehold on his starting job would cease to exist.
What Brown is most well-known for is his role played in Tony Sparano's implementation of the Wildcat formation in 2008. The advantageous mystery teamed up with Miami's proficiency in splitting the load allowed Brown to score a career-high 10 rushing touchdowns. The fact remains, however, that he was sharing carries with Williams, and after that, unless custom fantasy leagues included a scoring category for Wildcat statistics, Brown became nothing more than a fringe No. 3 back for competent online general managers.
Injuries would hinder Brown's productivity and time spent on the field throughout his winding years with the Dolphins. Last season, he proved to be less than a secondary character in the Nightmare that was the Philadelphia Eagles, and here we are now in San Diego.
ESPN and other websites have failed to even update that he was just added to the team, and while miraculous comebacks in fresh sceneries have written themselves in the past (look at Willis McGahee), there is no reason to believe Brown will be selected higher than the 17th round in any draft, and that's a stretch.
In their pursuit of replacing Sproles and/or Tolbert, one should wonder why Brown was San Diego's ultimate choice. Ryan Grant, Jerious Norwood, or - dare I say - LaDanian Tomlinson
all appear to be better fits for what the Chargers are supposedly searching for in a backup running back. Moreover, the Wildcat fad is reaching twilight status (in every sense of the term), and the offensive mind of Norv Turner will not be reverting to it often enough.
Nonetheless, it was Brown who was given a third
chance to revitalize his respectable place in the NFL. Considering that this isn't already superflous coverage of the matter, is there any foreseeable reason to claim him off waivers before Halloween?
For one thing, as it was alluded to earlier, Brown has been handed the uncontested No. 2 slot on the depth chart, for the time being. Brinkley and Baker could make strides in training camp and the preseason, but neither of them are legitimate threats to make an impact once the regular season rolls along. Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if fullback Le'Ron McClain cashes in on more carries than Brown does, like he did for Baltimore back in 2008.
You can certainly argue that Brown is a veteran back in a clearly defined role, who at best could serve as a safe and reliable option in deeper leagues...very deep PPR PP-snaps-participated-in leagues. You're not going to know exactly what - to name a few - rookies Isaiah Pead (St. Louis) and Ronnie Hillman (Denver) will offer you in 2012, although the upside is much, much greater.
Then there's Ryan Mathews, who is poised to be a workhorse for the Chargers this season, reducing the pressure on Philip Rivers as he elevates himself into first-round consideration. While he missed the final game of 2011-12, Mathews recorded 511 rushing yards on 92 attempts throughout his last five outings - including three consecutive 100+-yard performances from Weeks 12-14 - as he genuinely came into his own. That doesn't bode well for Ronnie Brown.
There is "hope" for a feel-good story. A rehabilitating offensive line and Mathews' durability can each falter. The Chargers can rediscover Brown via the dump pass that both parties would love to employ. 126 miles away from Hollywood, Ronnie Brown can reignite his career and the expectations set in motion since his Auburn Saturdays.
Is there realistically anything left in fish tank?
Don't count on it...unless you're in my league...